Facebook and Twitter are the two titans in viral marketing even though Twitter has a significantly smaller user base. Facebook has over 350 active million users compared to approximately 183 million Twitter accounts. While many of these twitter user accounts are inactive, the number of accounts in 2009 has grown astronomically. In Q1 2009 the number of Twitter users was only around 5 million. The current stat of 183 million was obtained by doing the google search “site:twitter.com -inurl:status”.
Being a user of both online viral marketing services, I can certainly see why Twitter has seen huge growth.
5 Twitter Advantages:
1. Very simple interface and feature set so you can get up and running quickly
2. Maximum 140 characters per “tweet” makes it quick to scan information
3. Easy to follow people, does not require permission, and there are only a few rules and restrictions
4. Easy to get followers
5. Searchable, with full profile views and aliases
However, it is not a complete knockout and Facebook still has some advantages and is adapting quickly:
1. Better support for multi-media
2. Fan page feature
3. Easier to have and follow conversations
4. Event page feature
5. Very viral
Overall, I would say Facebook is a lot more complex than Twitter. Friends must approve you and you can’t see a person’s full profile unless you are their friend.
I jumped on Twitter because Facebook has some archaic restrictions on adding friends. There is a friend threshold, and if you go over the limit Facebook will disable your ability to add friends for an unspecified amount of time. And they also don’t publish the threshold, and it changes periodically, so it’s a guessing game.
And if you violate the mysterious Facebook rules and restrictions too many times, your account will get suspended permanently and you will have to start all over with a new account and no friends. A friend of mine lost an account that had 3,545 friends. And Facebook would not even tell them what they did wrong. Ouch!
The other big limit on Facebook is your number of friends. You are limited to a maximum of 5,000 friends, versus an unlimited number of followers on Twitter.
When using Facebook for business or marketing, be sure to create and promote your fan page, which doesn’t have some of these restrictions.
In all fairness, Twitter has had to impose some limitations as well and has gone on account suspension sprees for accounts that add too many followers too quickly or people who use bots to automatically grow their list of followers.
If you want to get started in viral marketing check out twitter for it’s ease of use, short messages, and lack of draconian rules and restrictions. It’s actually a lot of fun and can be effective as a marketing tool when used responsible and without spamming people.
But don’t forget Facebook, which is still the big daddy of social networking, with the largest active user base. Facebook is the best environment for forming relationships with people, which is the most effective way to do social networking in the long run.